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Ridiculous crime and outrageous punishment

ESPN staff
October 7, 2011
Manu Tuilagi found himself in unexpected trouble © Getty Images

After England centre Manu Tuilagi found himself on the wrong end of a £4,800 fine for having the temerity to wear the wrong brand of gumshield this week, we were reminded that sports have the power to throw up the occasional story of ridiculous crime, and equally ridiculous punishment.

In that spirit, then, we look back at ten other examples of sports stars who found themselves in trouble for unlikely reasons:

Porky Oliver
A case where common sense lost out against the sanctity of the rule book - not the first or last time golf has been known to operate in such a regard. Ed 'Porky' Oliver (he was a bit overweight) came into the final round of the 1940 US Open firmly in contention. Unfortunately, a horrendous weather forecast threatened to savage the closing hours of the final round. Fearful of being caught in the worst of it, Porky was one of six players (also including Claude Harmon, father of Tiger Woods' former coach Butch) who decided to tee off their final rounds early.

Porky shot 71 to get himself into a playoff, but before he could tee it up again for the big prize he was disqualified - being early to the tee (22 minutes, to be exact) proving as big a crime in the eyes of the USGA as being late. Lawson Little ended up beating Gene Sarazen in extra holes - and Porky never won a major during what was otherwise a popular (and presumably extremely punctual) career.

Andy Powell
The Wales forward holds the record for being the only rugby player (we would say sportsman, but we haven't done the required research to be sure) to ever be dropped from his side for getting caught drunk driving the wrong way down the M4 in a golf buggy. Probably deserved, on balance.

Michael Beasley
The National Basketball Association, like most of America's most popular sports leagues, holds a 'Rookie Symposium' before each season, where the players most recently drafted into the league are forced to attend seminars about a wide variety of subjects - from how to organise their finances to how they are expected to behave as representatives of their respective teams. Then-Miami Heat forward Michael Beasley had different ideas in 2006, however, deciding to skip a number of lectures to spend time in his hotel room with a healthy (perhaps the wrong choice of adjective) choice of recreational drugs and a selection of female companions. The NBA, perhaps aware of the irony of the situation, fined him $50,000. Well, they do say it is always best to learn through experience...

Robbie Earle
A victim of the very crime Tuilagi was suspected of committing - ambush marketing - Earle's impropriety cost him his job, rather than a hefty chunk of change. Earle, an ITV pundit at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, was found to have passed on his allocation of tickets (around 40) for the Netherlands' group game against Denmark to a coterie of scantily-clad ladies attempting to promote the Bavaria brand of beer in the stadium.

There's nothing FIFA hates more than ambush marketing - they don't get paid as much by 'official sponsors' if any old brand can get exposure for themselves - so ITV and Earle found themselves under immediate scrutiny. Earle was summarily relieved of his duties at the tournament.

Freddie Flintoff - used to falling on his behind © Getty Images

Andrew Flintoff
A classic of the genre, Freddie Flintoff will have the dubious honour of being remembered as much for his propensity to ride pedalos while inebriated as his undoubted talent as an all-round cricketer. The Lancashire man found himself in hot water (not literally, it was probably lukewarm at that time of night) after falling out of a pedalo after a night on the beers during England's World Cup campaign in the West Indies. He was promptly sacked as vice-captain and missed his country's next group game, against Canada. Foolish.

Bath City youth team
The unfortunate youngsters found themselves on the end of a defeat after the referee ordered two of the players onto the sidelines for wearing the incorrect undershorts (they were not the same colour as the shorts, technically a contravention of FIFA rules). You've got to question the sense of any referee who makes a group of 16-18 year-olds change their shorts at the side of a pitch with spectators all around ... but either way it's a pretty impressive way to end up losing a match.

Barry Bonds
Controversial former baseball star Barry Bonds and Tuilagi share at least one thing in common (and hopefully only one thing), as Bonds too picked up a sizeable fine for a ridiculous attire-based offence.

The former San Francisco Giant - whose suspected steroid use overshadowed the sport for a number of years, during and after his career - received a $5,000 fine from Major League Baseball in 2006 because the wristbands he wore were too big. MLB insisted they contravened stringent attire guidelines, although Bonds wasn't convinced.

"My wristbands have already been changed and they're the exact wristbands I wore in 2004 and 2005. They're exactly the same," he said. "They can't come after me now if they didn't come after me in 2004. The wristband hasn't changed since 2004, so this can't be right."

Chad Ochocinco
The NFL has a notoriously strict policy on numerous aspects of their sport - with excessive celebration a frequent reason fines are meted out - but if there is an expert out there on the myriad ways players can get a fine it is probably Chad Ochocinco. The long-time Cincinnati Bengal (who changed his surname from Johnson by deed poll so it reflected his preferred jersey number, '85') has lost huge sums for various offences during his career.

Last summer might have been the least warranted, however, as the wide receiver was slapped with a $25,000 fine for posting on Twitter during a (preseason) game. "Man Im sick of getting hit like that, its the damn preseason [expletive]! 1day I'm gone jump up and start throwing hay makers , #Tylenolplease," Ochocinco wrote, to the chagrin of the league.

For those calculating at home, that's nearly $200 for every character typed. A high price to pay for expressing your thoughts.

Mario Balotelli - a top tens regular © PA Photos

Mario Balotelli
Throw the words 'ridiculous' or 'bizarre' around in any article that touches on football, and you are pretty much obligated to mention Manchester City forward Mario Balotelli. The Italian certainly knows his way around a fine - reportedly picking up over £10,000-worth of the parking kind since moving to Manchester, and nearly ten times that after being caught throwing darts out of a window at the club's training ground - and has a rap sheet that even Jay Z would struggle to match (that's a tired reference to Hova's long career in the genre, rather than an implication of any criminal record).

Our personal favourite when it comes to Balotelli, however, was the time he got reprimanded for firing a BB gun from a car window while driving around a roundabout in central Milan. Or when he drove into a women's prison. Ahh, we can't decide. What a man.

John Hewitt and Sir Alex Ferguson
Managers fine their players all the time - occasionally for the rather serious crime of refusing to play (hello, Carlos Tevez), but more frequently for standard offences like getting sent off (Lee Cattermole, this is probably your area). But occasionally the reasons are more obscure, and even Sir Alex Ferguson has shown that he isn't adverse to an unlikely punishment.

While at Aberdeen, John Hewitt was unfortunate enough to end up on the wrong side of the Scot - receiving a healthy fine over something that had nothing to do with his actions around the pitch. Instead, Hewitt was punished for overtaking Ferguson while both were driving out on the public roads. Presumably that was one misplaced pass too far for the future knight of the realm.

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